Part One Of A Series of Chats With Cirrus Design's Alan
Over scrambled eggs
with Alan Klapmeier, it's hard not to get the impression that the
boss of the nation's fastest growing GA manufacturer is just as
driven as ever. He's determined to demonstrate the value of
personal aviation to the rest of the world... He rattles off a list
of agenda items, things that concern him, projects in the works,
and his plans for the current SR2X line (while still not allowing
us to publicly talk up anything beyond that... for now). With
hundreds of SR20s and SR22s rolling off the assembly line in
greater numbers than ever before (and we must note, with increasing
efficiency), you'd think that a guy sitting at the top of this
empire would be ready to relax a bit. Not a chance.
Alan Klapmeier is still a man on a mission.
The SR2X line is going strong. A tour with Dale Klapmeier and
Cirrus's David Coleal was the first one I'd sampled of the
production line in a little over a year -- and I was staggered at
the difference. Count 'em all up and you can see far more product
on the floor than ever... and more space to work on them. With
increased production scheduled to hit the skies by this fall,
this is a tripling of the production line in just a tad over three
years... a remarkable achievement in production efficiency.
The basic structure of the SR series seems to have changed not a
whit when you look at the outside... but inside is a new
substructure that is easier to build, inspect and maintain... and
far more cost effective to construct. It's also a slicker looking
bird with a number of cosmetic improvements adding a finer sheen to
an already pretty flivver.
The result is measurable progress in taming delivery squawks,
airframes that are now coming together in well under 2000 labor
hours, and continual progress toward future production increases...
vitally necessary if Cirrus is finally going to finally,
consistently, out-produce long-time industry heavyweight, Cessna
The production upgrades are critical to the future success of
Cirrus Design. Already running in the black, the means by which
they will be able to keep prices in check and devote more capital
to R&D comes from leaner manufacturing techniques and expert
analysis of every factory detail involved in building each Cirrus.
Restructuring the supplier base has decreased a number of costs
dramatically, and nearly $12 million in run rate savings has
already been achieved on 2005 production volumes. Better yet, there
is more to come.
The SR2X fuselage has received most of the upgrades, thus far,
in production technology... leaving the wing assembly (soon) to
receive similar treatment -- allowing for the possibility of even
greater efficiencies in the future -- and happier customers, to
boot. Already, 2005 customer squawks are well under half that seen
in 2002. No kidding... the production gnomes at Cirrus are on a
It's good that production can handle the heat -- because sales
are showing serious opportunities for growth. With months of
production backlog already in the bank, Cirrus' John Bingham is
working hard to push into new markets in the increasingly fruitful
overseas market. Sales centers are being established in key
nations, support networks are being set up as well, and certain
markets are already responding aggressively. In Australia alone,
Cirrus outsells all other GA birds combined.
But, back to Alan and the scrambled eggs....
To Be Continued, Next